World Bulletin / News Desk
The head of Thailand's National Security Council (NSC) claimed Tuesday that violent incidents in three majority-Muslim southern provinces that had been wracked by a rejuvenated insurgency since 2004 have been significantly reduced.
Gen. Thawip Netniyom, Secretary General of the NSC, told reporters that the Junta's efforts in the south had reduced violence in Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani by 60 percent since 2014.
In 2014, generals -- led by present Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha -- seized power in a coup and overthrew the elected government.
"There are still movements that are fomenting unrest but we have improved our intelligence gathering capacity to combat these movements," Netniyom said.
"We will also continue our peaceful dialogue which has proven to be effective."
Thawip claimed that the head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had said before this week's summit in Indonesia that he did not support separatism in Thailand, and wished all Muslims to embrace peace.
Despite the apparent decrease in the number of violent incidents, bombings and shootings continue to destabilize the three provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat – as well as four districts of the Songkla province to the north – where around 6,500 people have been killed and over 11,000 injured since 2004.
The southern insurgency is rooted in a century-old ethno-cultural conflict between Malay Muslims living in the southern region and the Thai central state where Buddhism is considered the de-facto national religion.
Armed insurgent groups were formed in the 1960s after the then-military dictatorship tried to interfere in Islamic schools, but the insurgency faded in the 1990s.
In 2004, a rejuvenated armed movement – composed of numerous local cells of fighters loosely grouped around an organization called the National Revolutionary Front or BRN – emerged.
The confrontation is one of the deadliest low-intensity conflicts on the planet.